90% of Recent Refugees in State on Welfare

United Press International

More than half the refugees admitted to the United States end up on the welfare rolls and California leads the nation with more than 90% of recent refugees receiving aid, Congress was told today.

Phillip Hawkes, deputy director of the Family Support Administration of the Health and Human Services Department, said at Senate hearings that 55.4% of refugees who have been in the United States for less than three years are on welfare.

After California, Washington state has the next highest percentage of refugees on welfare, 74%.

When Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, Hawkes said, the goal was for the federal government to pay for transitional assistance while refugees settled in, found employment and “pursued their interrupted lives.”


“Most believed that refugees would make limited use of income and medical assistance programs, find work and enter the economic mainstream,” he said.

Many Move for Benefits

But over the last six years, the “single largest problem” of the refugee program has been the high percentage on public assistance, he said--with many moving to states with higher-than-average welfare benefits.

Hawkes said a study by the American Council for Nationalities Service found that refugees were eager to find work at first, but that after receiving aid for several months “their motivation toward employment had significantly decreased and been replaced by a desire for more English training, education and employment-related services leading to better job opportunities.”


Their dependence on welfare, he said, does not appear to be related to the availability of jobs.

“There is overwhelming evidence that many more recently arrived refugees could in fact be employed than currently are,” he said.

Hawkes testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee headed by Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.), who said the hearing was called chiefly to determine what effect the Gramm-Rudman budget cutting law was having on refugee programs.